31 May 2009

What You Do and What You Deliver!

Many years ago, I tried to distill my role as a marketer down in some way that was simple to understand yet robust enough to be truly descriptive. I came up with the following chart:

The chart worked. It worked for me. It worked for others. How does it work for you? Chime in!

Really, I got it down to five “buckets”: opportunity identification, strategy, facilitators of action, actions that deliver results, and the results that matter. I’ll try to take on each bucket as a topic in the future. And I hope you’ll add your voices to the discussion.

For example, what results matter to you as a marketer? I came to the conclusion that three results reign supreme in the pantheon of key performance indicators: revenue, profit, and market share. To be sure, there are other measures which add value, but I believe they measure precursors to sales (or revenue), profits, or market share. They indicate likelihood of delivering the results that matter and are hence relegated to the role of demi-measures, inferior to the Big Three.

I’ll stop here for today and we’ll dive into details of the buckets over the course of other posts. Hope I’ve got your brain engaged and ruminating. After all, how often do you actually indulge in thinking about the process of doing what you do? Take a little time to do so now. It’s worth it. For you. For anyone you coach. And, as a result, for your company.

The Update: Not a Pro... Yet

For those who picked up on the fact, my oldest son did have a multiday trial with Fortuna Cologne, a soccer club in Germany. Unfortunately, he picked up a minor injury during the workouts, so it looks like he'll have to try again later. Not the end of his soccer adventures by any means!

26 May 2009

Crowdsourcing to Success?

A couple interesting items today…

First of all, it was announced publicly that my son will be trying out for a position with a soccer team in Germany. This particular team, Fortuna Köln, has an experiment underway. For the price of €39.95/year, anyone can become a member of the club with voting rights. And all important decisions related to the club are voted on – from starting line-ups for a match to the design of the uniforms for the team. Can this use of the wisdom of the crowd manage a soccer team for success? Over 13,000 paying members surely hope so.

Well, that gets me to the second interesting thing from my day, a talk by technology product guru, Marty Cagan of the Silicon Valley Product Group. Part of his mantra is “lead your customers” as opposed to being “led by your customers”. Although I quibble with some of his perspectives, on this topic we are aligned: breakthrough innovation nearly never comes from letting your customers specify solutions.

There are proponents of crowdsourcing who squawk at the mere mention of skepticism about it as a model for decision-making. To be sure, there is merit in using consensus-based choice tools for refinement of an existing product or to reduce risk in choosing a path forward. For these tasks, the input of many will take off the sharp edges espoused by the few.

The many, however, can’t refine what they’ve never imagined. And it’s through imagination that innovation is delivered. Ask, “What if?” and go from there. Crowds don’t do this. Standing up against the crowd is what’s required.

For many businesses, even the ones that started from the spark of innovation, getting to a stream of on-going mold-breaking, transformational innovations is a huge challenge. Customer-centricity can help, but not in the sense that “customers will tell us what to do.” Indeed, to think in this manner is to abuse the idea of insight leading to inspiration.

Listen to and observe customers, consumers, users. Figure out what problems they have, what desires they express; these are the key insights. Use the insights as touchstones in the process of inspiration, ideation, and evaluation of options. Make sure not to lose the insights; they ensure that the innovations will be valued.

So, how are Fortuna’s fortunes these days? Well, the wisdom of its crowd has guided the team to 10th place in a 19-team league, hardly the height of success. And, it begs several questions: How long will voting members stand for their own mediocrity? Will folks choose over time to drop out and go back to a less-expensive, less-empowering option? Do fans truly want on-going middle of the pack performance, or would they prefer the risks required to reach lofty heights occasionally but mixed in with moments of bitter disappointment? Whether in soccer or business, I prefer to take those risks.

22 May 2009

Competencies and Customers: The Case of TuneCore

Ever hear of TuneCore? It's the service that Trent Reznor and other musical talents have started to use instead of traditional record labels. It's also a company that understands where it adds value and where it doesn't. The firm classifies itself as an "enabler" for digital distribution, the creation of promotional items, and the production of CDs.

TuneCore just scored a deal with Amazon (Thank you, WIRED, for the news!). It will charge $31 to create a 10-track CD. That's $31 to get your music available on Amazon, so folks can order a CD. And, with on-demand duplication of the CD, you won't have to sell many discs to turn a profit. TuneCore makes its money on the up-front transaction, passing along Amazon's payout directly to you.

One of the things I love about this deal is the long-tail model activation. So many artists will now have a means to distribute that the selection from which to choose will be staggering. Yes, yes, the paradox of choice comes to mind in this circumstance, but that's where the promotional and evangelical moxy of the musicians can make a difference. Promote yourself or your band aggressively at shows, via word of mouth, YouTube videos, etc. and you could drive some sales. Seriously, even bad bands can sell a few dozen discs to friends and relatives. That's a pretty small conversion percentage on the tens of millions of Amazon shoppers.

TuneCore also exemplifies a delightful distinction between competencies and customers. In this case, it's not trying to take credit for the creative capabilities of music makers. These folks are TuneCore's customers. With a business model that enables its own customers to profit more than under a more traditional record label distribution arrangement, it's creating evangelists. The barriers to entry for music distribution have dropped nearly to the floor. No wonder TuneCore cranks out so much new music so regularly (150 to 300 new releases a day)!

Bolt this burgeoning catalog of music to the merchandising and suggestion engines within Amazon and shazam! you've got lots of good stuff happening. Talk about an incentive for musicians to market themselves? This is it. Instead of relying on the record labels and the traditional model of pumping up consumption, bands will bootstrap their own awareness-building.

My mind starts racing a bit when I consider the evolution here. Think of the continuing disaggregation of the old music distribution model and where it could lead... More PR or ad agencies marketing their talents directly to artists, perhaps for commissions on the sale of music (pay for performance!).

Or, apply the TuneCore Amazon model to another disc-based industry: film. Could a similar commodization of production take place for DVDs and Blu-ray discs over time? TuneCore gets that popping CDs out isn't where the value-add is, per se, in the music value chain. But it's an area of competence outside the capability of most musicians. And therein lies the opportunity. Let the talent focus on optimizing its product and promoting it - writing, creating, and playing great music. TuneCore takes care of manufacturing.

Think some budding film students wouldn't like the chance to actually sell their creations this way, too? The financials behind filming a feature-length movie and recording an album are very different, but the cost of creation for both types of content are much altered from prior generations. Ah, the digital age!

As you can tell, I'm excited about this bit of news. It's fun to think of how an old, out-dated technology like CDs might get a bit of new life from an on-demand model, how more musicians may be able to find the means to earn money from their creative inclinations, and - most importantly - how I might finally fulfill my rockstar dreams!

The news also gets me wondering about the lifestage of other industries and the questions of "Who is my customer?" and "Where, specifically, does my firm add value?" Many, many of us are faced constantly with the choice of defending the established means of capturing value, but it's in the moments of change that the greatest opportunities and risks are to be found. Ignore the inevitability of change at your own peril!

OK, gotta go now... It's time to work on some new riffs for my next hit song.

19 May 2009

Twitter the Video Network?

Over the past few weeks, I've had several conversations about how Twitter is "like a new broadcast network". Well, now you can add video capability into the conversation, thanks to Twitmatic. Here's a nice overview of the service:


And be prepared, there is definitely more to come as folks dig into the Twitter API and play with it.

17 May 2009

Transparency = Truthfulness + Timeliness

Following the on-going news coverage about House Speaker Pelosi, waterboarding, and the Republican comments on the whole situation, I am reminded of the benefits of transparency when communicating about big issues.

Let me make it clear, I believe waterboarding is torture, but it's not the issue I'll focus on in this post. Rather, let's look at the current hubbub as a notable example of why coming clean isn't good enough. Coming clean quickly is the key to keeping relationships solid.

In Speaker Pelosi's case, the passage of time has created a lack of consensus on what "the facts" might be. Memories can and do fade over time. Notes which seemed so complete now prove to be inadequate. The recollections and statements of all parties involved are colored by bias towards specific desired conclusions. The issue is further complicated by the classified nature of the meetings and updates in question.

With the exception of "classified status" reports, how many of us have dealt with these precise issues in our work lives? It might be better to ask how often we've dealt with these issues, so pervasive are they. And, though the internal wranglings over who said what to whom when are indeed frustrating, when it comes to relationships with customers and consumers, the stakes are at their highest.

At one point or another, most of us in the marketing profession are going to deal with crisis. I have. In one instance, a hurricane flattened the factory of a component supplier, disrupting assembly of my company's products for weeks. While with another firm, we had to inform our consumers of potential tampering with our products. The response to both situations helped turn these potentially dire circumstances into net positives to the particular customer and consumer relationships.

The belief that transparency is the sum of truthfulness and timeliness spared us the second-guessing, wondering, and criticism that inevitably arise from delay. Even if companies respond with full disclosure but delay the response until "the dust has settled," relationships with customers are undermined. "If there really wasn't any risk, then why didn't they tell us right away?" is a common question in these circumstances.

The makers of Tylenol have long been lauded for their response to a dire crisis in 1982, but there are other examples of good corporate behavior, too. The Consumerist applauded the handling of a credit card skimmer incident by redbox in April of 2008 (Full Disclosure: I was at redbox at the time). But not everybody has learned.

Domino's is the latest brand to go through the painful lessons of a delayed response. The company took two days to respond to the firestorm created by a YouTube video showing employees willfully engaged in public health violations while preparing food at the Domino's where they worked. The video was viewed millions of times. Somehow the leadership at Domino's seemed either to want the whole issue to just go away or was so tied up in strategizing that it forgot to act.

Even the apology video eventually posted by Domino's on YouTube rang hollow. In it, the President of Domino's USA, Patrick Doyle, states, "There is nothing more important or sacred to us than our customer's trust..." If taken at his word, then why not respond immediately and forcefully to this circumstance? It seems apparent that Domino's leadership didn't trust its customers, and in turn customers' trust in the company eroded. The video apology was less than emphatic in addressing the issue.

I'm sure someone in a corporate affairs job would say, "But nobody wants to shout 'Fire!' in a theatre or disseminate wildly inaccurate information." True enough, but it's still crucial to get the word out as quickly as possible.

In the equation of transparency, timeliness trumps perfect truth. If all the facts aren't in, say so, but keep people informed. In the age of YouTube and Twitter, the trust you show in folks will likely pay itself back as they help spread the word and fill in the details for you.

If you could change just one thing...

... for your business or brand, what would it be? How significant would the effect be? Is there anything that would have a greater impact?

Are you devoting enough attention, energy, and resources to this change? If not, why not?

16 May 2009


I recently wrote about my experience with a crashed hard drive in my Dell laptop and the lack of delight in my customer service experience. Despite the best of intentions, Dell has further soured me based on my experience this week.

After my informing the company of my issue, I was told a new hard drive would be arriving in the next three to five days. So far, so good. I could wait. This conversation took place last weekend, and I thought, "OK, a few days is reasonable."

On Monday I received a call to inform me my new drive would arrive by Tuesday evening. Yay! Thanks for the update, Dell! How redemptive to have this kind of proactive communication, except for the one tiny detail: the drive did not arrive on Tuesday.

Wednesday I received a second call from the fine folks at Dell, inquiring about my receipt of the drive. When informed that said arrival had not occurred, a quick inquiry was conducted. "I'm sorry, Mr. Lancina, it appears there was a problem on our end. The drive did not leave the warehouse. It will be shipped today and will arrive by the end of the day tomorrow, Thursday."

Somewhat skeptical, but still hoping for the best, I waited and checked and checked and waited all day Thursday. No drive. No nothing. Frustration, anger, disappointment... But no drive.

On Friday, I did not receive a call to check on the delivery of the drive. I finally did receive the drive after dark. Instead of the relief and pleasure of having a new part to get my laptop back to functionality, I was simply angered at the repeated hope/disappointment cycle I'd been put through.

What's the lesson? Make commitments you can deliver. I was actually ok with the "three to five days" timeframe originally provided, and indeed Dell delivered the drive within the five days (just barely!). By delighting me with news of quicker delivery, my hopes were raised only to be dashed. And by then repeating this cycle Dell lost much of its brand credibility with me.

The credibility topic is something I'll pick up in another posting. It is one aspect of the on-going stream of "moments of truth" when brands either delight or disappoint. The stakes are high for brands and businesses because disappointment can lead to long-term rejection, on-going bad word-of-mouth commentary, and worse. On the other hand, on-going delight in each moment of truth can turn a customer into an evangelist... and we all want evangelists supporting our efforts, right?

13 May 2009

Twitter Search: Oh the Insight!

Twitter recently introduced search. Have you tried it? You should. The stream of tweets is enticing, exhilarating, and exasperating. A focused list of search terms should become a staple of managing your customer relationships.

Tweet streams on "my brand sucks" or "my competitor" provide a near realtime view into current thoughts of users, fans, and malcontents in ways that are difficult or impossible to replicate elsewhere. The voyeuristic element is hard to deny. The insights gained are hard to ignore.

Going back to my gross generalization of Twitter is quicker, Facebook is deeper... Mining the tweets from a search will not generate deep insight. You'll get a temperature check on the flow of opinion. Like a thermometer identifying a feverish condition without diagnosing or treating the underlying illness, inklings arising from a Twitter search call for additional consideration and action.

Twitter being what it is, however, enables response to folks in very intimate "we are paying attention to you" ways. See a comment about a bad customer experience or billing issue? Tweet right back to say, "let's make it right!" Notice chatter based on inaccurate information? Get the word out on what's actually happening. Treat that tweet-fever with online instant aspirin - quick actions will bring down the temperature and reduce the pain to your business.

With transparency and honesty so influential on the customer experience and relationships with users, Twitter's value will only increase as it mainstreams across your customer base. I'll continue to come back to it as a theme, and I hope you'll share your thoughts, experiments, and successes, too. Onward!

11 May 2009

My Secret War: Installment 1

the FiendI have an admission. I wage a secret war against a most heinous adversary. This enemy has infiltrated our neighborhoods. This enemy is shameless. This enemy is... CUTE!

Make no mistake about it, underneath the fuzzy, friendly, furry exterior beats the heart of a fiend! This tiny critter, along with its gang of like-minded minions, has gnawed, clawed, and nibbled a path of destruction through my yard.

Sure, a few nips at the edge of the deck could be tolerated. Indeed, the loss of a bird feeder every few months seemed acceptable. But then something changed.

The tidings of true trouble began with the grill... First a tooth mark on the handle, then chunks missing from its stand, and finally the complete destruction of the propane tank hose. Rodent wreakers of havoc! Huffing ones, too! How was I to have known that propane is a glue-sniffing squirrel's ultimate high?

Poor ShedNot content with barbeque bedlam, these nibbling nasties moved on to structures. That's right, structures. Their cruel quest for chaos led next to the storage shed. Poor shed.

Armor?Yet, even at the sight of this chomping challenge I retained a purely defensive posture. I reinforced the shed, hastily erecting metallic defenses like a lone GI armor plating my Humvee.

The crazy critters merely gnawed away at the fringes of my makeshift metal masterpiece. I had to escalate! But how? I considered poison, but quickly dismissed the thought. Too much potential for unforeseen consequences. Traps? No, I might capture an innocent bystander by mistake ("innocent bystander" = chipmunk or bunny. My kids would never forgive inadvertent bunny bondage).

Preferred DeterrentAt this point, I developed the SDS or Squirrel Defense System. It is a highly refined solution, consisting of strategically placed rapid response arsenals and trained system operators. It is non-lethal and highly effective. It is... Tennis Balls!

That's right, tennis balls tossed with uncanny accuracy! I am once again the big dog of my backyard and have the squirrels on the run. Though I haven't harmed a single one, it's proved a great source of amusement for my family and an effective deterrent to those rats-with-fur-tails.

I fear the nut-stashing ne'er-do-wells are plotting a massive counter-attack, readying themselves to rise up in a wave of rodent retaliatory fury. Until then, wish me luck! I am making my stand at the shed... Because we all know if the shed falls, the house is next. Egad!

09 May 2009

Dell Delight? Not Quite...

Well, the hard drive on my laptop is dead. Of course, it happened while I was on the road, so no g-thoughts yesterday! Reflecting on the customer experience aspect of the circumstance, there are several areas I'd recommend to the fine makers of Dell computers:

Recommendation #1: Borrowing from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, somewhere on the laptop itself there should be a prominently displayed message like the following, "Laptop busted? DON'T PANIC! Call this number now: 1-800-438-4357" (I just typed the numbers to 1-800-GET-HELP, which happens to be the number for Protection One, a security systems firm).

This recommendation makes sense, right? It's a LAPTOP! It's MOBILE! It's likely that when something inside goes sproing, the user will be away from home, away from documentation, and without the use of a computer to access dell.com. A cell phone, though, is likely close at hand, perhaps nestled comfortably in a pocket just waiting to be put to good use. Even if it's a smartphone with access to the web, a reassuring voice in a moment of need is better than "we'll respond to your Customer Service inquiry within 24 hours" or the like.

Who is the person arguing against putting a phone number for tech support on the bottom of a laptop? Or on the top of it? In bold letters on a neon sticker? It might be the guy saying, "but folks will think our computers break down a lot if we put that there."

I got news for you, Mr. Brand Positioning, computers do have issues... A lot. That's why companies have help desks, tech support, and oodles of back-up files for lost data. So, until you make a flawless computer, why not go for flawless support in times of trouble? Think of it as OnStar for 'puters. Trust me, it'll be appreciated.

Recommendation #2: This is an easy one. Don't allow your automated voice-response customer service phone system to hang up on a caller. Twice. Right after saying, "OK, I'll connect you to someone who can help." Bad form. Luckily, the third time I called and went through the menu choices I did get connected to a human being... In the wrong department.

Recommendation #3: When the automated system does connect, after taking in my Express Service Code which identifies my product and presumably who I am, don't connect me to the wrong department. Bad form again.

Fortunately, I got a very nice person in the wrong department. Very nice. And I was connected to another very nice person in the right department who was able to determine from the information I shared that yes, indeed, the hard drive needed replacing. He was even able to arrange for the new hard drive to be shipped, lickety-split, to my home. He was, however, completely in the dark about any questions regarding recovery of data from the recently deceased drive of harditude.

Recommendation #4: Arm technical support folks with answers to common questions, such as "Will I be able to recover any of my files from the bad drive?" Could be a great opportunity to turn a customer service call into a revenue moment.

Imagine being able to respond with "For a small charge, we can review the drive and provide you all recoverable data." There's a whole data recovery category with real services out there... Why not strike while the iron's hot? I'd have been delighted to hear about such a service instead of "I honestly don't know, you'll need to work with a local technician on that."

So here I sit, typing on my trusty old home PC that just keeps chugging along, while my one-month-old Dell laptop does its best imitation of a paper weight. Somehow, it just doesn't make sense.

And, despite some very competent individuals who did all they could to make my problem feel painless, the macro-level solution for this eventuality was quite poor. Rather than evangelizing about Dell's forethought and ability to delight even in times of trouble, I struggled to find answers, felt disregarded initially when I did reach out directly to the company, and am still curious about how much I can retrieve off my dead drive and at what cost. One opportunity lost, and perhaps an opportunity for the future identified.

07 May 2009

Furthermore... WIRED Chimes In On the Kindle DX

Looks like g-thought's thoughts are being reinforced by others...


And you read it here first. ;-)

Remember, "Social" Isn't New

Here we go again... The latest "social" darling is Twitter. Is it going to surpass Facebook? How do we use it? How come we're not already Tweeting our way to business success? These and other questions are flying through conference rooms all over the place. And, they are good questions to ask.

Without a doubt, Twitter is proving itself useful as a means of rapid dissemination of information and a source of consumer insight for companies who pay attention. Who can argue with the growth curve of this new utility, now used by millions of people each month?

Allen Adamson posted a good article yesterday on forbes.com about differences between Facebook and Twitter. The differences are notable because thinking "Twitter versus Facebook" misses the point. That line of thought is similar to "Hammer versus Screwdriver". Different tools for different purposes, friends!

At the risk of vast oversimplification, Twitter is quicker and Facebook is deeper. Each can play a role in a well-crafted move into things social. Adamson finishes with "As has always been the case, organizations need to use whatever means are available to listen and learn..." I couldn't agree more.

And here's where I'd like to emphasize Adamson's "As has always been the case..." We're human, folks (leaving out the odd zombie or space alien disguised among us). We are social creatures. We talk, we interact, we socialize! The underlying behaviors haven't changed so much as the enabling tools have. Whether communicating in synchronous or asynchronous fashion, technology has enabled greater reach, speed, and – perhaps most importantly – the ability to archive our interactions for future review.

Synchronous and asynchronous sound "big" and "technical", but really it's just "at the same time" or "one after the other". Talking with each other is a great example of the former; writing notes to others exemplifying the latter. Whether Webex or Twitter, today’s enablers of both types of communication surpass the imaginations of our forebears. And there is absolutely more to come... New solutions and innovations will continue to stream our way.

In this propagation of further, faster, better it helps to stay grounded in the underlying truth when considering strategy. The old questions of "What are we trying to accomplish?", "Who are we trying to reach?", and "How will we measure success?" are still absolutely necessary. They are crucial to the avoidance of Shiny Object Syndrome (thinking myself clever for coining the phrase, I did a quick google search "just to be sure". Guess what? Over 15,000 results!).

Regardless of the tools available, because new ones are constantly being invented, it's crucial for marketers to keep the order to "ready, aim, fire!" Those who succumb to S.O.S. are guilty of firing first and only considering the concept of aiming afterwards. Such efforts generally waste time and money without delivering measurable results.

"But what about being fast? About being on-trend? About staying relevant?" I hear the groans, and there's nothing to stop rapid implementation by asking the important questions. Heck, being wrong on some of the answers is part of getting better. Positive iteration is only possible by identifying that something could be better. Answering the what, who, how questions doesn't ensure success; it ensures intention of being successful. And intention leads to direction, which in turn enables learning, assessing progress towards a goal, and ultimately results.

So, play with the shiny objects, tweet your heart out... Just do it with intent. Otherwise you will likely just contribute to the growing pile of twitter litter (another one I coined late... only 2,700 search results for this one, though).

06 May 2009

A Prince and Frogs and a Good Cause

After reading the g-thought on frogs last night, my friend Matt Hartzog (go redbox!) was inspired to send me a link to The Prince's Rainforests Projects.

Check out the video, with the likes of Prince Charles, Robin Williams, and the Dalai Lama, it's nicely done and frog-friendly... While you're there look through the site, make your own frog video, and please consider doing something to make a difference!

Thanks for this one, Matt!

New Amazon Kindle DX... $489?

Intriguing positioning for the new, larger Kindle DX, trying to provide an alternative to bulky textbooks among other things. In this article from today's WSJ, the author questions whether the the pricepoint will appeal to college students. I think it's a question of comparative costs, and how much will be charged for the digital Kindle-versioned books... and this is where things get interesting.

With a kid about to enter college, I've peeked at prices for books. It's easy to rack up a big bill with $139 biology texts and $79 economic tomes. The $489 might be a steal if the publishers and amazon get their pricing model in order. But will they?

I started wondering, how much cost can be taken out of the textbook business by reducing pages into bytes? How green is digitally distributing content when compared to shipping heavy books? How much can a publisher improve profit margins by taking these costs out and still charging a lower price to the consumer?

Apparently, I'm not the only one considering these questions. Check out this dialog on the cost of publishing physical books, including the responses from readers. Part of the rub is a perception that amazon and book publishers are not transferring cost savings to consumers. I'm sure there are well-considered arguments about "channel conflict" with distributors, wholesalers, etc. There is also clearly a thirst for profits within the publishing industry.

There's a further rub: the Kindle is a fine product for reading a novel or a short story. Going from page 1 to 2 to 327 in order. It's not so hot for textbook or other non-linear reading (thank-you, Jakob Nielsen, for a great review of Kindle 2 usability!).

My Kindle 2 is a slick device, but I don't use it much. I like to dog-ear pages, write notes in margins, and flip back and forth between sections. The Kindle stinks for this type of activity, which is precisely what college students do!

So... Amazon is launching a $489 dollar device that could provide "green" advantages versus traditional book publishing, and will absolutely reduce the physical strain on students currently schlepping texts across campus. It also looks cool. Will it be enough to justify the costs? Without price concessions on the Kindle version of the texts and/or a significant usability enhancement, this launch feels likely to be more about buzz than benefit.

05 May 2009

Frogs and Business?

Just back from an evening event at my kids' school... which happens to sit in a nature preserve. The evening's program? Frogs, toads, turtles, and snakes as presented by David Stokes (http://www.oxyboost.com/bfstokes.htm).

There was one song about "Habitat habitat, we all need a habitat..." It was a cute way to highlight the challenges facing frogs as their habitats change and disappear. Without truly rapid adjustment or evolution, many frog species are facing dire consequences.

So, in this time of ultra-competition, how is your organization coping with change in its habitat? With agility and a spirit of evolution, or by insisting that things have gone well enough until now so why change? Maybe the frogs can relate to business after all.

Smartphones for Airline Check-in

NPR reported yesterday on new technology being tested by airlines, enabling travellers to check in using smartphones... to the point of not having a boarding pass printed. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103781402

A great user experience for those who don't like the extra time waiting in line at a kiosk to print a boarding pass... Just make sure your phone battery doesn't die in the security line!

Heart versus Mind

"I know the facts, and in this case I don't think we can believe the facts."

It's a real quote from a real business discussion, uttered by a senior executive of a multi-billion dollar firm to its CEO. And, it highlights a challenge we all face from time to time: dealing with belief via intellectual argument.

In this particular case, the executive in question simply didn't believe in the initiative being discussed. No amount of rational thought, factual research, or data was going to sway him. His heart was involved, and he was afraid of the potential consequences of taking action per the recommendation.

It's a tricky circumstance, dealing with the gut instincts or feelings of leaders who are successful in part because of the accuracy of their inclinations. Forgive the comparison, but it's similar to trying to reason with a religious zealout. When it comes down to "know" versus "believe", faith tends to win out.

So how was the issue resolved? After much consternation and frustration, the project leader tried a different approach to gaining approval. He appealed to the executive's heart. Instead of using research results to prove a point, possibly winning a battle only to lose the war, he found people the executive trusted.

He brought in folks who had either been mentors to the executive, or whose positions gave them a credibility in the eyes of this decision-maker. They didn't talk facts, they discussed concerns. The played out scenarios, talked worst case outcomes, and eventually identified the specific details that were sticking points in the proposal... which turned out to be relatively minor in the end. A few tweaks later, and the project was implemented, but only after swaying the heart of a key stakeholder.

The insight? Know when you're dealing with the mind, and when you're dealing with the heart. Ensure you're prepared for both in every big meeting, and use the right approach at the right time. Each of us is a bundle of thoughts and feelings; there's no denying it. Accept this reality, incorporate it into your efforts to persuade, and evangelize for success.

Singing alone or along?

This morning my daughter was in her room, warbling away at a song of her own spontaneous composition. It was lovely to hear her, although her young voice and creative phrasing were definitely most appealing to the parental unit I am. At one point she paused, and said to anybody who might be listening, "I sing like Ariel!" Then it was back to the warbling, wandering ways of her tune.

And it struck me, to her ear, the melody was pitch-perfect and solid. To me, the daddly dude, her notes were often off, and yet adorably entertaining. To the casual passer-by, she was likely "cute" but a long way from Disney animated classic stuff.

What's the insight? Think about your business or your brand... How do you perceive it? How do your customers perceive it? How do potential customers perceive it? When was the last time you went out and asked others what they think of it?

In this time of economic challenge, we are all trying to find that one thing or the million little things that add up to the one thing that will make a difference. We want to succeed. Sometimes, it's as easy as recognizing that what sounds pitch-perfect and solid to us could do with some improving in the eyes or ears of our customers.

So, keep singing, like my daughter, but pay attention to the reception you're getting from other folks. You might just find they sing along!

Welcome to the g-thought!

The intention is to capture thoughts, sometimes fleeting, sometimes profound, and hopefully insightful and entertaining... maybe even valuable! In any case, I hope you read, enjoy, and comment. It's the collaboration that creates the real value. So, onward to blogging!